On the News With Thom Hartmann: HSBC May Have Gotten Away With More Crimes Than We Thought, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The “too-big-to-jail” banks may have gotten away with even more crimes than we thought; according to billionaire Nick Hanauer, stock buybacks are killing our economy; if we want to fight inequality, we should fight for single-payer health care; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. The too-big-to-jail banks may have gotten away with even more crimes than we thought. According to new details exposed in the so-called “biggest banking leak in history,” HSBC helped their clients shield billions of dollars in assets from taxes in their home countries. Not only did that client list include prominent US sports stars, film directors, hedge fund managers, and major political donors, but, our government has known about all of this tax dodging since 2010. The Guardian Newspaper says that the leaked HSBC data was shared with regulators five years ago, but so far, we haven’t seen one single bankster go to jail over this illegal activity. These leaked documents show that HSBC regularly allowed clients to withdraw bricks of $100,000 in cash, marketed tax-avoidance schemes to wealthy clients, colluded with clients to conceal hidden bank accounts, and the bank provided accounts to known criminals. But, five years after finding out about it, there hasn’t been a single HSBC official put on trial. In fact, even after HSBC got caught laundering money for Mexican drug cartels, the banksters were able to buy their way out of those crimes for a couple billion bucks. Apparently, too-big-to-fail doesn’t only mean too-big-to-jail, it also means that HSBC is too-big-to-prosecute. Sure, a few of HSBC’s US clients have been prosecuted for criminal tax evasion, but the bank that helped them pull it off is still open for business. How many times does one company get to break the law before they are really held accountable? Is there any crime that they can’t simply buy their way out of? We have a few great lawmakers like Senators Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who are asking these tough questions, but every single elected representative should be. No corporation or bank should be immune from prosecution – and it’s time to make too-big-to-fail mean too-big-to-exist.

According to billionaire Nick Hanauer, stock buybacks are killing our economy. In a recent piece over at The Atlantic, Mr. Hanauer says that in the last year alone, corporations spent about $700 billion propping up their stock prices by buying back shares of their own stock. In past decades, all the profit would have spread throughout our economy in the form of higher wages, increased investments in plants and equipment, taxes, and through the indirect jobs and benefits that resulted. Today, corporations skimp on wages and benefits, avoid paying taxes, invest in plants overseas – instead of at home, and buy back their own stock to manipulate the share price. It’s just one more way that corporations funnel billions in profits to the rich and claim that there’s no money left to give their workers a raise. Thankfully, some are saying that it’s time for a change. In his article, Mr. Hanauer said, “If business leaders hope to maintain broad public support for business, they must acknowledge that the purpose of the corporation is not to enrich the few, but to benefit the many.” Hopefully more business leaders are listening.

If we want to fight inequality, we should fight for single-payer health care. According to Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization, “Universal health coverage is one of the most powerful social equalizers among all policy options. It is the ultimate expression of fairness.” And, some of our lawmakers say that taking the profit motive out of healthcare may be the only way to fix our broken system. Despite the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the new law still leaves far too many Americans locked out of the system. Millions of people fall through the cracks because their governors won’t expand Medicaid, or because the corporate executives in charge of their healthcare find news ways to screw their customers. To fix these problems, Representative John Conyers introduced the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” which would provide healthcare to everyone and help fight extreme inequality. We can help make economic and healthcare fairness a reality by supporting this legislation right now.

Nothing is safe from Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget cuts. Well, except for his tax breaks for the rich, of course. In order for the state to pay its bills in the wake of the $344 million budget shortfall, Brownback slashed the normal Republican targets like education and pensions. But, when that wasn’t enough, he had to slash his state’s prized highway system to make ends meet. The move isn’t likely to play out well with the governor’s rural supporters, and it drew criticism even from pro-austerity state lawmakers. State Sen. Forrest Knox, one of the most conservative members of the legislature, said, “When I send out surveys and say, ‘What are the roles of government?’ – and this is not just my district – roads are generally at the top of the list.” It appears that Kansas Republicans are finally recognizing that Brownback’s massive tax cuts make it pretty damn hard to govern. Perhaps now they will wake up and put a stop to this budget nightmare before it gets any worse for the people of Kansas.

And finally… A father-son team in Florida is proving that people with autism are often excellent employees. John D’Eri and his son Tom originally opened the Rising Tide car wash to provide work for John’s other son Andrew, who happens to be autistic. After researching employment options for people on the spectrum, John learned that there are very few resources and opportunities for adults with autism. So, they set out to change that. They decided that a car wash was a great fit for work for autistic individuals, who often work better in environments that require repetition. Plus, the pair felt that a car wash would allow workers to interact with the public, and show that people with autism are important members of our workforce. There are many government and nonprofit programs that provide help for children with autism, but very few that focus on the needs of adults on the autism spectrum. The Rising Tide car wash, which is already looking to expand, provides a great way to show the world that individuals with autism are unique and wonderful people.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of February 16, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.